The Flying Dutchman


Unlike the portent of doom with which this cocktail shares its’ name, the Flying Dutchman is a strange and simple cocktail with quite a few bright and vivid flavors which tastes somewhat of an orange julius beverage.

“Summ und brumm, du gutes Rädchen.”

A rare cocktail, seemingly because it is unknown to a lot of people, but also because it demands a rather difficult to obtain ingredient, id est orange gin, the Flying Dutchman is almost as illusive as the ghost ship itself.  The drink takes its’ name after the Dutch legend.  Ted Haigh writes that the cocktail originates from a Dutch bar book; the book which was published in 1950, was entitled Internationale Cocktailgids, having been authored by W. Slagter (Haigh 129).  More than likely, the cocktail itself is a Dutch original, probably originating slightly earlier than the publication date.  The version which most people are familiar with now a days is one which uses a swirl of curacao around a glass, and then finished with chilled gin: this is highly different from the version that is attributed to Slagter.

The Flying Dutchman as a concept is a Dutch legend, one which is familiar to many sailors, which refers to the dangers and sightings of a strange and illusive ghost ship dubbed the Flying Dutchman.  Probably originating in the 17th century, the ghost ship is the focus of much folklore and poetry in the 18th century, and is also an eponymous opera written by Wagner.  Many scientists have dismissed the idea as a mirage that had been seen by sailors, created by refractions of the image upon the atmosphere, which would give the illusion that the ship was upside down, as was many times the case for the spectators.  The ship however took on a portent of ill meaning, especially by authors who spoke about the ship in the 18th century, specifically Sir Walter Scott and John Leydon.  For the literary representation of the ship, many attribute similarities between the fictional captain and the historic captain of the 17th century, Bernard Fokke, whose quick trips across the oceans vast distances between Holland and Java gave him an air that was attributed to the devil. 

As a liqueur, orange gin is at its’ heart a flavored gin, infused with the rinds of oranges to give it a rich flavor, but the stuff is hard to find now a days in commercial form.  The only orange gin that is available in and throughout the United States, so far as I know, is the Seagram’s stuff, as well as some orange gin found in a few state-run liquor stores in the Northeast produced by Jacquin.  Until the 1970s, orange gin was available in Europe through distillers like Gordon’s.  Like a sloe gin, the easiest way to create the liquor is to infuse gin with orange zest, without pith, then to filter it and sweeten it to taste; I tend to leave it drier, but that is a matter of personal preference, and so experimentation is useful when infusing the spirit and adding in simple syrup.  The entire process is not that difficult, merely time consuming, both in zesting quite a few oranges, but also letting the orange gin sit for an extended period of time.  While you can pull out the flavor in about a month, especially with really fine zest and a lot of shaking every day, or by using a higher proof gin, the spirit will round itself out as it sits, even after removing the orange zest, and can continue to draw out flavor from the zest for an extended period of time.  In the case of sloe berries, many household sloe gins are aged for a year to pull out the maximum flavor.  Unlike the orange or citrus vodka, the orange gin is at its’ core, a simple infusion to complicate and pair with the juniper and botanical notes, rather than an attempt to provide a masking flavor as is the case (in most instances) for vodka.

With any cocktail that involves juice, use the freshest juice you can, squeezing it by hand if able.  There is truly no replacement for the vivid flavor of fresh juice in a cocktail, providing nice tang, acidity, and sweetness all at once.  Using processed juices, especially in the cases of citrus juices, means that the flavor will not be the same, since these juices, the best example being the lime, require processes of pasteurization in order to prevent it from turning an ugly color or amalgamating into some not so pleasing texture.  The process, while providing juice to the masses, reduces the vivid taste of the juice, and in a cocktail, where the flavors are supposed to be strong and pungent, it diminishes the overall experience.  Therefore it adds quite a bit to go the extra step.

One final note about the sweetness of this cocktail: it appears awful sour considering the use of lemon and orange, but the fresh orange juice has a slight sweetness to it, and when combined with properly made orange gin, that being a liqueur, but not too sweet of one, creates a perfectly balanced cocktail.  The bitters just bring out other flavors, spice notes and the like, which help produce a well rounded overall drink.   Also, there should be a greater volume of orange juice than lemon juice (oranges should be larger than lemons).  For an added twist, add in a Meyer lemon to replace the traditional Eureka lemon juice.

The Flying Dutchman:

2 ounces orange gin
1/4th an orange, juiced (about 3/4 ounce)
1/4th a lemon, juiced (about 1/2 ounce)
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine the ingredients into a cocktail shaker.  Shake with ice, strain into a cocktial glass, and garnish with a small orange twist.


Haigh, Ted.  2009.  Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond.  Beverly, Massachusetts: Quarry Books.